I’ve tried so hard for years to promote the importance of hairdressing for people living with dementia. There’s so much being written and filmed about the benefits of music for people living with dementia, but hairdressing needs more recognition on how beneficial this can be for them too! Research has proven that people with dementia and other health conditions that have their hair done in a care-based salon concluded the experience can have a positive and therapeutic impact on their wellbeing.
I feel very fortunate to work in the bright and spacious salon at Langham Court Dementia Home in Surrey, England which is following the Butterfly Approach. The focus is on giving the residents a feeling of being pampered in a relaxing and calm setting. It’s all about the continuity, something to connect them to their past – the aromas of the shampoos, lotions and hairsprays, helps to trigger memories and conversation.
I remember some years ago a new resident called Joan, who told me that for over twenty years she has had a regular weekly hair appointment at the local salon every Tuesday at 2.30pm and would like this to continue, so I kept that weekly appointment free for Joan, and she said it’s the most important date in her diary!
My day usually starts with a quick glance at the appointment book, but the list can change from hour to hour. It all depends on how that person is feeling on the day. Anxiety can play a big part in whether someone feels up to coming in and having their hair done. So, it’s important to build up people’s confidence. This usually involves a little chat to reassure them that this will be an enjoyable experience. For many of the Ladies and Gents just coming into the salon is such a tonic, a chance to sit down, flick through the magazines, have a cuppa and a chat.
It’s important to not only make them look good, but to feel good about themselves too.
Hairdressing in a dementia care setting can be challenging at times, you really do need to get to understand everyone’s individual personalities. Something that would be considered a straightforward task such as shampooing the hair can be unsettling to a person living with dementia. Having the hair dryer too loud or even having another resident in the salon are all triggers that can make that person more anxious. But with all of these little challenges, when you have got to know that individual, there is always a solution that works for them.
Nobody is ever left out. If we can’t for whatever reason get a resident into the salon, then I will take the salon experience to them in the comfort of their own room. Everyone needs to feel special, that person may have dementia, but it’s all about helping them to live well with dementia.
My day may have the odd few challenges, but the rewards far outweigh them.
Hairdressing is only a small part of the service I provide, I get rewarded every single time I step foot in the Salon at Langham Court. The best reward of all is when I’ve earned their trust, and they have come into the salon feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, but have left the salon beaming and giving me a little peck on my cheek to say thank you.
I have met so many interesting people over the years. They have all come from so many different walks of life, and quite often those chats in the salon have given me a privileged glimpse into their past. But as the hairdressing code of conduct says “what’s said in the salon, stays in the salon”
Hairdresser at Langham Court
Huntington & Langham Estate